Everyone knows smoking is bad for your health. The list of negative effects that smoking has on your body is pretty extensive, but few people are aware of the link between cigarettes and vitamin B12 deficiency.
Cyanide In Cigarettes
One of the many harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke is hydrogen cyanide (HCN), a colorless and poisonous gas that was a favorite method of execution in the horrific concentration camps of Nazi Germany. It makes sense that your body puts a lot of effort into removing HCN from your system as soon as you start pumping it in by smoking cigarettes.
How This Cyanide Affects B12 Levels
A few scientific studies have found that smokers generally have lower serum levels of vitamin B12. One piece of research also found higher levels of cobalamin being excreted in urine. This is probably caused by the high intake of cyanide from smoking cigarettes, which may result in changes to the way in which B12 is metabolized.
More research is needed here, but it seems an unfortunate side-effect of smoking may be the active excretion of cyanocobalamin, the form of vitamin B12 most commonly found in supplements. For the body to use cyanocobalamin, it must first be transformed into one of the naturally occurring forms of B12 (e.g. methylcobalamin, hydroxocobalamin or adenosylcobalamin). This process also releases more cyanide into your body.
Methylcobalamin As A Solution
A better way to combat low B12 levels in smokers may well be B12 supplements that don’t contain cyanocobalamin. Methylcobalamin is the most readily available alternative, while one study found that giving smokers injections of hydroxocobalamin reduced their blood cyanide levels by almost 60%.
The Problem With Vitamin C
Smokers are generally more at risk from vitamin deficiencies than non-smokers. This is partly due to having poorer diets on average, but also because of the direct effects of smoking on the body. Vitamin C levels are particularly badly affected, and smokers are often advised to take vitamin C supplements to prevent further complications.
Unfortunately vitamin C is known to interact with vitamin B12 in the digestive system. Large doses of vitamin C will actually destroy B12, so extra care must be taken with supplements. If you take a B12 supplement, it should be taken at least an hour or two away from any vitamin C supplements or meals that contain lots of vitamin C.
Vitamin B12 Supplements
If you are concerned about vitamin B12 deficiency as a result of smoking cigarettes, the best solution is to stop smoking. If you are unwilling or unable to do this, then B12 supplements are a good bet, so we’ve put together a list of Recommended B12 Supplements here. They all contain methylcobalamin, so you don’t have to worry about your body being unable to use the extra vitamins.
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